AN AFTERNOON WITH NICOLA BRYANT.

SATURDAY 15th MARCH 1997.

SHEFFIELD HALLAM UNIVERSITY, UK.

On Saturday 15th March 1997, Nicola travelled to Sheffield, for an event organised by the Sheffield Watchers, the local Doctor Who group. The afternoon consisted of an interview with Nicola carried out by Adrian Hulme, a charity raffle, and an autograph session. During the interview, Nicola related many stories which were familiar to her fans, as well as some new ones. It is on the latter that this transcript will focus. I must apologise in advance, that I may be paraphrasing what Nicola actually said, but my tape-recording of the event was not of a very high quality, and so many gaps have had to be filled by my memory of the event.

Enjoy !!

Joining "Doctor Who"

"I went to drama school, Weber Douglas, and our final year production was "No, No Nanette", a musical. I played Nanette, who was an American, and in the audience was an agent Terry Carney, who as you might know is....wait a minute, I always get this wrong...William Hartnell's....son-in-law. Well, he was very impressed and wanted to become my agent. At first, when he phoned me, I thought it was one of my mates playing a joke, and hung up on him three times. However, finally I realised he was for real, and found that he has assumed that I was American and put me up for the role of Peri, the new American companion in 'Doctor Who'. I expressed concvern that I wasn't American, but he said if you can fool me, why not them. The audition went well, and I was still pretending to be American, and they gave me the part. John Nathan Turner (producer) asked me, 'Can you swim ?'. I couldn't, but lied about that too, as my sister is a keen swimmer, and so could teach me. John said, 'You need to pretend to drown !' 'Drowning ?', I said, 'Drowning's my forte !' "

"Planet of Fire"

"So, there I was just out of Drama School, and off filming in Lanzarote. I was very naive, I'd read my script and ask 'What does this bit mean - Peri falls down the side of a volcano'. And the director would say, 'Don't worry, it's a instruction for the sound engineers'. And I believed him. My first scene was my drowning scene. My sister had said to me, 'You've got nothing to worry about. It's the BBC, they'll have divers, life-boats..'. In fact, they took me out in a little rubber boat, dropped me in the sea in an isolated cove, and returned to the shore, leaving me on my own, the shouted 'Action' through a large megaphone on the beach, and I had to 'drown' for as long as I could. I was well aware that 'The Daily Star' were on the beach, and that I was rapidly falling out of my bikini-top. Also during one take, a young German from the next cove, which was a naturists' beach, heard my cries, and quickly swum over to rescue me. I was coming up for almost the last time, when I looked towards the shore to see 'Mark Spitz' coming towards me. Well, my German isn't very hot, and he didn't speak English, so I just pointed at the cameras, and he looked and shook his fist at them, and swum a hasty retreat. He got his revenge later though, by walking across the TARDIS materialisation shot. It was a very emotional story though, as Mark Strickson (Turlough) was leaving."

Pranks

" The Twin Dilemma was Colin's first story, and there were very few women in that story, so the rehearsal rooms were like some kind of boys' locker room! You know, it was all boys together, and all of the jokes were about the women, "Hahaha!" And Colin, for some peculiar reason - during rehearsal, he was extremely nervous. And we were filming, or rehearsing this sequence where, as the Doctor, he's going through this cowardly period, and he's cowering behind Peri, and he's holding onto the back of Peri saying "Don't shoot! Don't shoot!"... And he sinks his teeth into my bum! And this is like day two or three of rehearsal! And I'm thinking 'Oh great, three years of this, I can't wait!' So, that's what went through my brain in like .3 of a second. And I just swung around to like, y'know, slap this guy who was sinking his teeth into my butt. And he was like, 'Oh! Oh, I'm sorry! I don't know why I did that!' And it seemed really, kind of, "Yeah... sure... Like, you didn't think about it, it's a reflex action.' But, of course, it was all guys in there. They thought it was very funny. So they were like, 'Ha ha! Well done! Day two! Hey! Way to go!', y'know. And I thought, 'This is great, what am I going to do ?' And Kevin McNally was working on Twin Dilemma, and while I was out, Kevin McNally, who hadn't been in the day previous, so he hadn't seen this incident... So Colin told Kevin what had happened, and he said 'This is part of a team game. Everyone's got a bet on it, you know, it's ten pounds a head: who can get their teeth into Nicola's butt next!' So Kevin McNally said 'Hey! Okay! Great! I'm game! Here!' He was very lucky that when he tried, I missed when I swung round to hit him. But, after apologies, I forgave both Colin & Kevin"

"When we filmed 'The Two Doctors', Frazer (Hines) and Colin were always playing tricks on me and Pat (Troughton). Between takes, Pat used to sit in the wheelchair he used in the story, and would often fall asleep in it, and Colin and Frazer would creep up behind him and shout "Boo!!" or push the chair around the room at high speeds. However, they seemed to target me quite a bit. I've got this pencil that I always use to make notes on my script, but one day I couldn't find it, so Frazer said, 'Here, borrow my pen !'. 'Ah, how nice', I thought, but as I pressed down on the paper, the pen squirted me a large jet of water, soaking me. 'Ha, ha, Frazer !' Also, we all used to eat together in the canteen, and one morning, Frazer had muesli, and he and Colin were sniffing it, and discussing whether it smelt off. They really did the build-up well, and eventually I said, 'Hand it over here, and I'll smell it !' Frazer handed over the bowl, and I bent my head over it to smell, and Frazer swiftly pushed my face right into the muesli, causing both he and Colin to laugh uproariously. However, I got my own back later, when I offered to get Frazer some ice-cream with chocolate sauce. Instead of chocolate sauce, I put Worcestershire sauce on it, and it took him two days to get the nasty taste out of his mouth. "

"Another prank that Colin played during the filming of "The Two Doctors" was in the scene where he had to rouse me by throwing a cup of water in my face. We filmed the scene, and were then told 'going again', so I lay back down, pretending to be unconscious. Next thing I know, Colin has thrown a whole jug of cold water over me. I sat up spluttering, to find that the whole thing was a set-up, and that the scene had been fine first time. In fact, loads of people including Peter Davison, who was working in the next studio had come to watch. "

"During 'Revelation of the Daleks', myself and the whole crew decided to play a prank on Colin. Colin has a phobia about spiders, so Eric (Saward) inserted an extra scene in Colin's script which read 'The Doctor is taken to a cell, stripped down, and chained to the wall. In the corner of the cell is a large Spider'. Everyone knew about this, except Colin, and when it came to the read-through, he was quite uncomfortable asking whether it was necessary for the Doctor to be stripped. Eric and the rest of us, all nodded and said how important it was to the plot. Eventually, Colin realised that it was a joke, but we decided to play another prank. We covered Colin's dressing room with fake spiders -woolly one, plastic ones etc. Colin went mad when he returned and told me, 'Either you get rid of them, or I'll use your dressing room'. So, we collected all of the spiders, but we'd forgotten the one in the bathroom, which scared Colin later, when it jumped out when he lifted the toilet seat. "

Hair & Make-Up

"When I got the role of Peri, I had to sign a standard BBC contract which includes a clause concerning 'hair alteration', this means that they can do anything with your hair that they want. John (Nathan Turner) decided that I should have my long hair cut short, to make me look younger. This was done, but a month before I had put my hair in pigtails and had a picture taken in a photobooth for my passport in 'Planet of Fire'. I showed the picture to John, and he said, 'Ahh! How sweet ! How old were you then ?'. When I told him, 'only a month younger than I am today', he groaned as he realised that my hair had been sacrificed for nothing. "

"For 'Vengeance on Varos', I had to have a face cast made for my bird-woman costume. The lady making the cast was one of the BBC's top make-up artists, and she was quite pleased that I was the only actor she had to make-up. So, I sat there, my face all covered in plaster, with two straws up my nose so that I could breathe, the weight of the plaster forcing my head back against the wall. Finally, she removed the cast, and at the top of my nose was a balck mark, which looked like mascara. The make-up lady rubbed at it quite hard to get rid of it, before she realised that it was a bruise. The top of my nose had obviously been taking all the pressure. So, for the next few days, this poor lady had to cover this bruise that she had caused with make-up. What made it worse, was that the filming was behind schedule as usual, and so instead of carefully removing the bird mask, by melting the glue, it was ripped off, taking some of my skin with it. In fact, it was quite sunny during filming, and I ended up with small patches of sunburn on these tender areas. The final disaster was that I am allergic to feathers. "

"For 'Mindwarp', I had a bald cap to cover my hair, which I had now been allowed to grow long. Now, it was fine when it was fitted at four o'clock, but as the filming was behind schedule, by the time I filmed the scene at seven-thirty, the cap was starting to come loose, so I had to stand in a set position, as any movement made the cap slip. As it turned out, this was good dramatically, as Peri was supposed to be a mindless zombie. "

Effects.

"On 'Revelation of the Daleks', I had to hide behind a console with the DJ (Alexi Sayle), and a Dalek had to explode nearby. I expressed concern at this, as did Alexi. If it had been just me I don't think they would have done a practice run - 'Budget, Nicola, Budget !' - but as Alexi was there, they did a practice run, with the effects man standing where we would. He detonated the Dalek, but his hair caught fire ! They managed to put it out without any injury, but decided to use a lesser explosion for the real thing. Even so, there was the worry for me, that a similar event might happen with a lesser explosion. Luckily, everything went well. "

Tom Baker.

"I've only met Tom once, at a convention in Chicago, three weeks after I took on the role of Peri. I was quite worried because I'd never been to America before, and I wasn't sure what I could say as I had only just joined, and none of them knew me. All guests were standing in the corridor, waiting to go into different rooms, and one of the organisers asked me if I'd like to meet Tom Baker. I said, 'Yes', and he took me over and introduced me to Tom. Tom just looked at me and said, 'I don't know what they want to have an American companion for anyway', and went into a room. I was really angry, but people have told me since, that he's like that to everyone. "

Pictures

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Transcribed by Paul Leach.

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